- 3 min read

Nikko Tamozawa Imperial Villa

The Imperial Family's Summer Retreat

So, you're going to Nikko for the beautiful nature and amazing historical sites away from the hubbub of modern city life?  Well, so did the Imperial Family. The Tamozawa Imperial Villa was the official residence of the royal family when they escaped to the cooler temperatures of Nikko, and today the building is maintained as a beautiful and interesting display of what their life was like.

A bit of history behind the building:

Tamozawa was first built in 1632 by Empress Meisho as a place for her relatives to live connected to the palace in Akasaka (in today's Tokyo).  In 1898, that three-storied section of the detached palace was deconstructed and moved to its present day location in Nikko, where it was enlarged into a new residence built around the same frame in 1899.  The Taisho Emperor used it as his summer residence to escape the brutal heat of Tokyo until 1925. 

The Showa Emperor fled to Tamozawa in 1943 after evacuating during World War II. Bomb shelters were built into the building's gardens and can still be seen today (from the outside only, access to the shelters is not permitted). Following the war, the villa fell into disuse and held no official capacity until its restoration and re-opening as a museum in the year 2000. 

Today, the Tamozawa Imperial Villa is a fascinating tribute to Japanese architecture and history. Admittedly that doesn't sound like the most exciting way to spend an afternoon, but the displays and explanations have a way of bringing the past to life and are quite intriguing. Tamozawa is one of the largest wooden buildings in Japan and uses many traditional methods of architecture and structure that are not used in modern buildings today, and the purpose and symbolism of those methods are deconstructed in everything from the ceiling beams to the wall paintings to the tatami mats to the sliding walls.  

Each of the more than 100 rooms is also defined with their purpose during the Imperial Family's inhabitance. Visit the bedrooms of the Empress's staff as well as the waiting room where nervous guests awaited their audience with the Emperor. See the Western touches combined with traditional Japanese styles in the dining room for distinguished guests, and see the billiard table used by notable historic figures. 

The Tamozawa Imperial Villa is well equipped for non-Japanese-speaking visitors and has all information displayed in several languages.  The English is excellent.  The introductory video at the building's entrance is also available in English.  

The building is crafted around a series of beautiful courtyards, and were fashioned to direct cool air flow from the outdoors and through the rooms.  The outer gardens beside and behind the building are beautiful and well worth exploring, featuring ancient trees and meticulously maintained landscaping.

After the World Heritage sites, the Tamozawa Imperial Villa is an excellent secondary stop on your trip to Nikko. 

More info

Find out more about Nikko Tamozawa Imperial Villa Memorial Park.

Was this article helpful?
Help us improve JapanTravel.com
Give Feedback

Leave a comment

Thank you for your support!

Your feedback has been sent.